First of all, I’d like to thank T-Peos and H20Fidelity for including me in the tour and making this review possible. Now, I’m not going to dwell too much on the accessories, packaging and stuff and go straight on to the sound. For the review, I ran them off my iBasso DX90 and I also used it with the O2, which synergised quite well. On we go with the mini-review then.
The H200 received quite a of praise about how it sounded but I never actually heard it. I was really looking forward to hearing what T-Peos would be able to do with their new flagship. When I first heard it, quite frankly, I was shocked. It was in one word, dreadful. The bass was nice, but everything else just sounded plain wrong and unnatural. Now, over the time I’ve had it I’ve warmed up to it a little, and even considered buying one, but I still don’t think it is an IEM that I can recommend.
If you have been following the tour thread, you will have heard people say that the bass from the H300 is absolutely awesome and I would be lying if I said that they were wrong. The bass is exceptional both in impact and quality. It has a very solid thump to it, but it is still quite fast and it doesn’t ever bleed into the midrange. I would classify the H300 borderline basshead, but it doesn’t quite have as much bass as the DN-1000, but definitely more than the DN-2000. The texture of the bass is very nice as well, being very well extended and having good rumble in the sub-bass. If I had to judge the bass quality of the DN-1000 vs H300, I would easily give it to the H300; the DN-2000 comes closer but I still think the H300’s bass is more detailed and has a more satisfying impact. This was a great start for the H300, but unfortunately, for me, the positive impressions end here.
The midrange hit me hard. It was absolutely not what I was expecting. This is perhaps the part that let me down the most. It is a little bit more recessed than I prefer, which means that you have to turn it up to higher volumes, but then other problems arise such as vocal sibilance and the treble becomes rather unpleasant. I like vocals that are neutral and I don’t mind it they tilt to either side a bit. However, the H300 has an odd upper midrange spike that just makes female vocals sound very unnatural and a little bit nasal. Male vocals are definitely less affected, but at times they can sound a little off too. For me, the midrange either sounds veiled or overly bright (if that even makes sense?) depending on the volume and I just can’t find the sweet spot for me.
Those who have read some of my other reviews will know that I generally tend to like a slightly brighter treble and when I heard that the H300 would have a bright sound signature, I really thought that I would like it. I wished I would say that I loved the treble, but I just can’t. It is overly bright and at higher volumes (around 155 on the DX90) the treble becomes a little piercing and actually hurts my ears. Now, I’m pretty sure that people listen significantly than I do (from meets, I listen at 9-10 for my HM-700 and RE-400 but others were listening at 15) and the treble could be a large problem for them. The treble can actually cover details and on some songs all you can hear in the background are the crashing of cymbals and personally, I just cannot stand this. Unfortunately, the treble is probably the worst part of the H300 and it affects every song I have almost always in a negative way.
Imaging & Soundstage
Finally, something positive to report J. The imaging is quite good, though not quite up there with the DN-2000 yet. It is clear step up from the DN-1000 and it handles most of my tracks with ease, even the ones that the DN-1000 showed signs of congestion. Overall, I am quite impressed with the H300’s imaging. The presentation of the H300 seems to be more up front and aggressive rather than that of the DN series, which seem to be more spacious. It is really had to describe the soundstage, because most of the instruments are in your face, but the vocals are pulled back and there are some tracks where there are segments where there are cymbal clashes further out. There seems to be most of the instruments right in from of you, some space, then some others on the side. The soundstage is quite capable, but I personally prefer the DN-1K & 2K’s soundstage over this, but it’s more of a preference issue. Grado lovers should like this.
Separation & Detail
The separation of the H300 is something that I have to applaud. T-Peos have really done well here. Although the bass is hard hitting, it does not affect the separation one bit. It one of the best areas of the H300. Everything is so clear, and it really does compete with the likes of the Noble 4 and the DN-2000. This a step up over the DN-1000 in terms of separation for sure. Ah, here is something that I’m not entirely sure about. It seems like a very detailed IEM, but not unlike how the DN-1000 masks some of its detail because of its bass, the H300 has a similar issue with its treble. The treble I very emphasized, too emphasized IMO, and it gets in the way quite a lot of the time. The H300 is very capable in terms of detail, if only the treble wasn’t so bright…
From what I’ve heard, the H300 is certainly a very technically capable IEM, but I am left wondering what in the world was the designer thinking when he/she tuned them. It reminds me of the Rhapsodio RDB 2v1 I heard a while back. It was very technically capable, but because of the tuning, it was deemed by me to be the worst IEM I have ever heard. The H300 is a lot better, but I really do wonder what I could have been if it was tuned better.
Pros - Bass, bass, bass. They do also have impressive clarity and detail throughout the spectrum
Cons - Hottttt treble, a bit big and clunky
I've just packed up the H300 loaner ready to send it on its merry way, thanks to H20fidelity for organising this. My impression largely accords with those above, a big V-shaped sound sig, with fantastic bass. The clarity and detail across the spectrum is great too, but the treble is too hot. A couple of folks have said they're like a DBA02 with more bass, that's bang on for me.
Build and aesthetics: Build quality on these is pretty standard, acceptable for the price but nothing spectacular. The housings are big and stick out of your ears like a couple of little corks. I would say they are strictly for audiophiles in this regard, but there are plenty of popular consumer IEMs that are as big so that's probably just me. I found the fit and comfort excellent. I prefer wearing phones cable down, it lets you put them in and out much more easily. They should add a shirt clip though, but having said that I didn't miss it too much. I didn't use any stock tips so can't comment on those. I also didn't try the mic-cable.
I briefly used a pair of silicons then switched to a pair of comply tips with the foam cover on the nozzle. Most of my comments are with the latter.
BASS: I'm an ER-4 type of guy, so the first thing hit my on these was the bass. It's big, deep, detailed and fantastic. The bass is beautifully detailed and controlled, and it does not bleed much at all outside of it's range. The bass is fast and tight and extends very deep. For me personally the bass is a bit too big to be called natural, it's great for something different from time to time but not every day for me. But I'm likely to be in a small minority on that, most will LOVE the bass on these.
MIDS: The mids are surprisingly good given the bass. They have that beautiful thick meaty tonality in the mids that make acoustic instruments sound truly beautiful. But they remain very clear and reasonably flat. You expect the mids to be recessed when you first listen to them because the bass is so prominent, but then when you focus in you're pleasantly surprised. The mids are not completely flat but they're pretty close. I think the mids are actually better than the DBA02, a bit more natural sounding.
TREBLE: Here's where these really fall down for me. With silicons these are hot, hot, hot. People who like the hyper-sparkle of the CK10/DBA02-type will have no problems. But even as someone who likes a bright, fast sound sig, these are too much for me. They are sibilant and harsh to my ears. BUT, once I put the complys on they calmed down a lot, to the point where I didn't bother to EQ them further. If I was using them longer term I might still play with the EQ but they were acceptable with the complys. In that respect I'd say they're superior to the DBA02. They have excellent detail and extension. But even when tamed, they are still a bit harsh and screamy in the treble. I'm not a graph guy but I suppose it's the peak others are talking about.
DETAIL/CLARITY/SEPARATION/SOUNDSTAGE: The H300 are excellent in all these categories. Detail and separation is truly excellent from the very bottom to the very top of the spectrum. Soundstage is excellent, not the best I've heard but no one will have a problem with them in this respect.
Conclusion: There is a lot to like about these, if you like big, deep and tight bass without sacrificing detail and clarity, you may well love them. The treble is hot but with minimal intervention that can be well-tamed.
Pros - Nice look and feel, free inclusion of cable with phone controls
Cons - Slightly imbalanced sound, treble emphasis and slightly recessed lower mids prevents these IEMs from excelling
I am reviewing the H-300s as part of the Australian tour and for that I must say a sincere thanks to @H20Fidelity for coordinating the tour and of course T-PEOS for supplying the tour unit.
Reading previous reviews, the H-300s have received mixed reports so I was looking forward to trying these with equal parts curiosity / doubt and excitement. Every mid-level hybrid IEM I've tried so far has missed the mark by a fraction so I'm still looking for the one that gets it right. Comments from others on the tour had me concerned that the H-300s might have a little too much treble energy, but others still said it wasn't as hot as other offerings on the market so what's my perception? Let's step through the pertinent details...
Design & Accessories
The H-300s are a quality piece of kit with aluminium and steel housings, 2 cables provided in the standard retail setup (one with phone controls and one without) and a nice range of tips including various single and dual flange options plus some foam tips. There's also a nice carry pouch so I'd say the H-300s meet the highest standards for IEM accessories and options - good start.
Fit & Comfort
I was surprised at how large the H-300s were and expected comfort issues, but I'm pleased to re
port that even my somewhat difficult ears were completely fine with the size and shape of the H-300s. They stick out a tiny bit further than some other IEMs, but nothing extreme and I never felt like they wanted to fall out or looked like I had a couple of bolts stuck in my ears like Frankenstein gone wrong.
The H-300s employ a simple DC style connector for their cables meaning that aftermarket cables should be easy enough to make or order. The fact that they provide 2 cables from the factory is outstanding because it allows you to choose to have
phone controls if you want them, but to not deal with the extra weight and cable elements that could catch on clothing, etc. if you don't. Perhaps the most exciting thing about the H-300s cables is that they actually work with non i-devices! The H-300's in-line remote even worked with my Nokia Lumia 920! Please be aware though that it's microphone and play / pause / answer / hang-up only via a single button - no volume control.
The cables are nicely insulated with good Y-splits and strain reliefs so they haven't cut any corners despite providing 2 different options.
As I said earlier, I was so hoping that the H-300 would finally strike the right balance of sound signature for a hybrid. I recently spent time with both the Atomic Floyd Super Darts and the Astrotec AX-60 and loved both in many ways, but couldn't quite get past a couple of factors with the sound of each. Enter the H-300 - was this my saviour?
The bass from the H-300s is smooth and deep. It reminds me of the bass from the beyer T1s in that it's there when it's meant to be, but it's not adding anything or blooming into other areas. This allows the H-300s to be very revealing and transparent, but without enhancing other frequencies (for the most part). Instead of enhancing subtle sounds the H-300 approach is to just get out of their way and I think it results in some special moments.
In terms of bass impact, the H-300 is subtle. The bass is accurate and full, but didn't really wow me with it's impact in the way that something like the Super Darts do. The H-300s are significantly more accurate and true-to-life with their bass presentation though so it's a question of wow factor versus reality - you choose.
The mids from the H-300 are frankly a bit disappointing to me. They're fine. There's nothing wrong with them, but I should be saying more than that at this level (>$300). To my ears there's a hole somewhere in the mids that just prevents the H-300s from ever sounding as magical as they probably should. T-PEOS flat-out nailed realism in the bass and lower mids, but somewhere higher up they've just missed the mark in a way that's not bad - it's just not up to scratch with the incredibly natural and realistic bass.
If I had to put a word to what's wrong I'd say that it's missing weight in the mids. The sounds are all there without any particularly noticeable colouration or emphasis, but the whole picture is just lacking in weight and that makes it all sound a little artificial - I always knew I was listening to a recording and never had a "Whoa, what was that?" moment. By contrast, the AX-60s were able to provide these moments despite some other issues I had with them.
Talk about "so close and yet so far". The H-300s are the first hybrid design I've heard in this general price range that hasn't been too hot in the treble. Other hybrids have literally made me wince from time-to-time, but the H-300s are absolutely fine in terms of sibilance and hot treble. Unfortunately though they still haven't quite hit the mark for my ears.
Similar to the scenario with the mids, there's just something missing with the treble presentation from the H-300s. The treble is slightly enhanced compared to the rest of the frequencies and it leaves the H-300s sounding slightly soul-less to my ears. This could be more about the mids than the treble, but I think both have a degree of interplay that hurts one another. Are the mids to light or is the treble to bright by a fraction? I can't really say, but I know that what I hear from the H-300s is a (very) slightly thin sounding headphone that is in no way offensive or bad, but is also to my ears not special.
As a perfect example, the HiFiMan RE-272 is a notably bass-light earphone. I'd go so far as saying it's a bit anemic at times, but I still love it because it has a certain magic - it's special. So it's not just about getting everything perfect and I feel like maybe the H-300 got quite close to perfect from a simple sound signature perspective, but somehow lost some magic along the way.
Staging & Imaging
The image created by the H-300s is clean and solid, but the stage isn't huge. Clean and coherent, yes, but limited in size to my ears. Once again I feel like I'd choose the AX-60s over the H-300 in this regard despite the fact that the H-300s are a more balanced sounding earphone.
To my ears, the stage stretches ear-to-ear (not beyond) and has reasonable height, but limited depth forward or backwards. Once again, it's fine and the coherence of all sounds and their placement is good, but there's nothing spectacular going on with the staging and imaging, just a solid, competent rendition of your recordings. (Not necessarily a >$300 rendition though in terms of stage size.)
The ultimate litmus test I always finish with is the question of "Would I buy these?" and the answer this time is no. They're nice. They're fine. They're inoffensive, but they're not stirring the passion and excitement needed to pry the locks and chains off my wallet. If I were about to spend >$300 on an IEM there are a few I'd put before the H-300.
Having said all that, this wonderful hobby of ours is all about personal taste and I'd encourage those who can to take a listen to the H-300s if you like a (mostly) balanced sound, natural and accurate bass that is smooth and deep, and a coherent and well-placed sound image. The H-300s pull off the feat of doing everything quite well, but nothing exceptionally (except perhaps natural, accurate bass) and they leave me uninspired by the whole package despite having huge respect and appreciation for nearly all the individual parts.